Thursday 14 July 2022

How long can it take to find a lost cat at an airport?

Sometimes 2 months or never based on research.

Obviously, it depends on many factors and you might be lucky but it seems to me that it can take a very long time indeed to find your cat if he or she has escaped their carrier at an airport. And in that time, your cat may become very unwell and injured. Here are some examples.

Rowdy was finally caught after spending three weeks on the run at Boston's Logan International Airport. The report says that she escaped from his cage in pursuit of some birds. I think that is a ridiculous comment because it can't be true. She escaped her carrier because the carrier was defective or it had somehow opened perhaps through rough handling.

Rowdy. Photo: AP.

Rowdy was in a normal hard carrier and travelled in the cargo hold. The family was flying with the German airline Lufthansa. The airline told them that their cat had escaped her carrier while cargo was being unloaded.

After three weeks it is believed that she became hungry enough and perhaps acclimatised enough to people at the airport to give herself up. Her owner was in disbelief she said: "I thought, what are the odds were actually going to get her back?"

She escaped on June 24 on her owner and husband's return from 15 years in Germany. The airline did a lot to find her. Agency staff and construction workers were involved. The used traps and relied on the fact that she was very hungry.

CNN reported in November 2011 but a cat called Jack had been lost at an airport for two months. He was lost at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. Jack turned up at the airport's customs room after being missing for a long 8 weeks. 

On a health checkup he was found to be suffering from a range of health problems having extensive wounds which had not healed due to malnutrition. He was euthanised.

Pepper is a female cat who ran away as her owner was checking into a flight to China. The owner had to leave in any case. She was missing for a week and eventually found when the owner's friend called out her Chinese name.

In another case, Dinky, a Ragdoll cat became lost at Dubai Airport for two months. Her owners had travelled from Dubai Airport to Gatwick Airport. When they arrived at Gatwick her carrier was empty. He escaped at Dubai airport and was found at a rescue centre.

They realised that he had escaped his cage at Dubai because the cage was to clean clearly implying that he had not been in the cage for a while.

Obviously, the problem with cats breaking free of the carriers and airports is that they become very frightened and hide. Airports, air side, are noisy frightening places and a cat is going to run into a place where they feel more secure. I can recall one cat ending up in the ceiling space between a hanging ceiling and the concrete construction above.

My research indicates that it might take a long time to get your cat back. My gut feeling is that the problem is down to a cat carrier which is inadequate for the job combined with indelicate handling of the carrier. If you take your cat on a flight and they go into the hold of the aircraft I think the carrier has to be particularly robust and designed for the job.

In 2019 I wrote about a policeman who allegedly shot a friendly ginger cat Durban airport. I don't think the cat had escaped a carrier but was a well-known cat who hung around King Shaka International Airport. However, it does point to the possibility of a domestic cat escaping their carrier at this airport and not making it out alive!

In another rather macabre story of a cat lost at an airport, George, was lost at Edmonton International Airport. It was reported that he was found later frozen to death. However, the report may have been misleading because they may have got the wrong cat. George like other cats managed to escape his carrier on two occasions but nothing was done to repair the carrier after the first escape. We don't know whether he was found. He was a ginger tabby.

In another story, Milo was last at Dulles Airport, Washington DC. They were flying with Lufthansa. It appeared that the baggage handlers had carelessly damaged the carrier. The report stated he was missing but we don't know for how long. We don't even know whether he was found. I am sure that some cats lost at airports are never found.

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